Probiotic flake bomb discovered in Greensboro

augA compelling culinary idea.

MidLaw discovered it last week. Turns out to be a centuries-old tradition in eastern Europe.

Phyllo pastry filled with sauerkraut. Genius.

You can get it at the Greensboro Farmers Market, at Augustino Gusto European Bakery. They make it with locally sourced sauerkraut, which they fill into a flaky (phyllo) pastry crust. No doubt there is a name for it, but MidLaw has not yet discovered that. Augustino Gusto is Romanian.

MidLaw foresees a successful chain of phyllo-sauerkraut restaurants in the offing. For now though, you are requested not to tell anyone. Do not disrupt the market for this incomparable probiotic flake bomb.

Now that MidLaw has moved in, supplies may be limited. Please do not buy any without checking first with MidLaw.

Greensboro Farmers Curb Market

New software can do in seconds work that takes lawyers hundreds of thousands of hours annually

 Bloomberg recently reported that JPMorgan Chase has deployed contract-analysis software that does in seconds work that takes lawyers hundreds of thousands of hours annually.

One thinks of John Henry who was a steel driving man. He died with a hammer in his hand.

JPMorgan’s technology budget runs to $9.6 billion. For that kind of money, you can eliminate more professions than one (or, at least more categories of services).

Keep on pounding.

 

Law firms: consider the pilot fish and the shark

pilotoceanic_whitetipFor all the well-known reasons, aggregate demand for legal services delivered by traditional law firms is flat. That has been pretty well documented. (In fact, enough already.)

So, the firms that are succeeding are the ones taking business from others (they are taking business from other law firms and taking it from alternative legal services providers, as well).

Here are three opportunities for midsize firms in this jungle:

Midsize firms can take business from big firms when clients elect to hire smaller firms where (i) the service is equivalent or better, (ii) costs are lower, and (iii) firm principals are more directly engaged in direct client service.

Midsize firms can take business from small firms where the midsize firm can bring broader and deeper capabilities.

Midsize firms can take business from anyone, anywhere, any time a midsize firm can provide experience-honed legal judgment delivered person-to-person by empathetic, seasoned professionals.

But “taking business” from others need not be all tooth-and-claw. Think instead pilot-fish-and-shark.

Artful midsize firms can build lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with other firms — large and small — law firm and alternative provider —  by networking, collaborating, complementing.

Midsize firms are uniquely apt for networking.

Red kidney beans break out

kidney-beans

As the International Year of Pulses draws slowly to its close, pause to marvel at the humble kidney bean.

Red kidney beans contain more antioxidants than glamorous blueberries or pomegranate juice.

Kidney beans.

Go, you crazy little red-headed, kidney-shaped whack jobs!

(Chickpeasnot far behind. What pulses!)

Guilford College president makes brave decision, teams undefeated after

guilford_college_fernandes_college_boardGuilford College President Jane Fernandes recently posted on her blog a dynamite note titled “Moving from Safe to Brave.” It mirrored her remarks as a featured speaker at the 2017 Higher Ed Colloquium in Florida, a national program of the College Board.

That post puts me in mind of an earlier Guilford leader who chose “brave” over “safe.”

In the period immediately after Lincoln called for troops, “trouble and perplexity were in the air” at Guilford College and in North Carolina. War was coming. Many Quakers and others who opposed secession were leaving. At that point, New Garden Boarding School (later Guilford College) was full. Nereus Mendenhall was its Superintendant and the principal teacher. But Mendenhall owned property in Minneapolis and his brother-in-law urged going there. For Mendenhall, this promised “worldly advancement and the accumulation of wealth.” And, as a pacifist and abolitionist, he had concerns about raising his family in slave territory.

So, he and his wife, Orianna, packed their bags for Minnesota.

On the day before they were to depart, they went over to the school to close up. But when it came to closing the school and leaving the students, Nereus could not do it. Their daughter Mary later recalled both her parents standing at the library, weeping. Nereus said, “Orianna, if I feel that the Lord requires me to stay, is thee willing to give up going and stay here?” Orianna said, “Certainly, if that is thy feeling, I am satisfied to stay.”

So Nereus and Orianna made the brave choice, certainly not the safe one. They stayed.

Opposed to secession, opposed to slavery, and opposed to war, Mendenhall kept New Garden/Guilford open throughout the war. During that time, people associated with the College often gave food and shelter (refuge) to deserters, bushwhackers and escaped slaves.

Guilford was “the only school in the South that was not closed during the war or during reconstruction.”

From this evidence, it may be deduced that Guilford’s athletic teams must have gone undefeated during that period.

Brave. Undefeated.

The Mendenhall home, The Oaks, is for sale now by Preservation North Carolina and likely to be demolished.

It’s the season for MidLaw’s somewhat famous MidWinter Supper

It’s time once more to republish the MidLaw MidWinter Supper.Supper

Last year the MidWinter Supper was supplemented with an enhanced fish feature, “Helen’s Famous Smoked Fish Dip” (the provenance is at the link). Some dip.

We’ll let this year’s embellishment be MidLaw’s recent inquiry into the skinning of chickpeas, which may, after all, be contra-indicated for the hummus américaine. You decide.

The Supper’s the thing. That hummus, that fish, that dip. And the beverage.

Mid size law firms doomed to planning, diligence

due-diligenceGuilford College president Jane Fernandes once counseled the College’s board of trustees that there is a difference between “planning” and “hoping.” (She communicated this very diplomatically, a measure of her fitness for her job.)

In a word (well, two words) the difference is “due diligence.”

British law firm consultants Edward Drummond & Co recently advised “mid-tier” firms in England that the largest London firms are shouldering mid-tier firms out of high-margin work. Mid-tier firms, Drummond says, are in danger of losing their ability to attract new business.

But, there is hope. Drummond, itself a planning consultant, says there is

scope for mid-tier firms to improve their margins by placing greater focus on ‘rigorous strategic planning’. For their new ventures to be effective, the consultancy said, it was imperative that mid-tier firms dramatically ramp up in-depth market research and competitor analysis while also ensuring a thorough understanding of the potential opportunities and risks of the work.

Firms were warned that without carrying out detailed due diligence, they could risk seeing seemingly profitable new business ventures suffer or even fail.

Before firms commit to “new lines of business” though, a Drummond partner counseled

  • analysis of competitors,
  • identifying gaps in the market, and
  • targeting potential clients

Failure to commit to rigorous due diligence is more strategic hope than strategic planning. It risks doom.

What all this means in the context of mid-size American law firms is a horse of a somewhat different color than what British mid-tier firms face, but still a horse.

x45vkpwv7hw-miles-storey

 

Cahiers de Hoummous: to skin a pea

skinsRemoving the skins from chickpeas when you make your hummus is something you just don’t hear enough about. And there are multiple schools of thought on the subject.

Maureen Abood, Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi and others counsel soaking then cooking dried peas a long time with baking soda, straining them, adding cold water, and then rubbing the skins off with your fingers. (Same method can be adopted for canned chickpeas, where you microwave instead of simmering for a long time.)

Others suggest rubbing your peas with a towel. See the Steamy Kitchen, rub-them-with-a-paper-towel method.

But traditionalist Amy Riolo, the author of Nile Style, says that she skins her peas one by one. She says

To peel chickpeas, hold them in between your thumb and index finger over a bowl and squeeze. The chickpea will come through and you will be left with the skin in your hand. I like to peel them while I’m watching television or talking on the phone, and leave them ready in the refrigerator, so that later on I can make this dish.

She handles each chickpea, one at the time. Well, there you go. If you remove each skin from each pea, one by one, you will have some creamy hummus.

Perfectly acceptable hummus, however, can be fashioned from skin-on peas. Partially skinned peas are fine, too. (Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.) You might want to give your food processor a few more turns for skin-on peas than for the naked ones, then you’ll be good to go.

It’s your hummus, you choose.

A word about the television, though. We cannot condone watching television while you skin your peas. In some jurisdictions, watching cable TV news in particular while skinning chickpeas may be regarded as chickpea abuse.

[Broader MidLaw hummus wisdom was recapped at year end.]

Guilford College president meets with Congress, President

nc-capitol

NC Capitol

War came and North Carolina Quakers were in a bad spot. They were abolitionists and unionists and pacifists to boot.

A bill was introduced in the North Carolina legislature to require that every free male over sixteen years old must publicly renounce allegiance to the government of the United States and agree to defend the Confederacy. The penalty for noncompliance was banishment.

It was a bridge too far. Former governor William Graham, who Bishop Cheshire said was one of the greatest men North Carolina ever produced and who represented North Carolina’s traditions of progress and moderation, spoke against the bill. He said it would be “a decree of wholesale expatriation of the Quakers.” “The whole civilized world would cry ‘shame,’” he said.

And so the bill was defeated, although “not so the hostility” from which it came. “Hatred and malice … fell with much violence” upon North Carolina Quakers.

capitoleep357picf-auto

Virginia Capitol

Legislation was proposed at both the State and Confederacy levels to provide exemptions from military service for Quakers and other “peace churches.” North Carolina Quakers recruited a committee to go to Richmond and make their case to the Confederate government.

Among the five-person committee was Nereus Mendenhall, the leader of New Garden Boarding School (later Guilford College) in Guilford County. He was “well known as one of the most learned men in North Carolina and a prominent educator.”

At Richmond, they met with a committee of the Congress. It was summer and they met at night outside on the grounds of the Capitol. One of those present said later,

It was the feeling of the delegates that Nereus Mendenhall was preeminently the man to present our case. It seemed impossible, almost, to secure his consent, owing to his natural reserve. Finally, [the chairman] said: “Gentlemen, the Committee is ready. Please state your case.” A dead silence followed. In a few minutes, fearing the committee would not understand or appreciate our holding a silent Quaker meeting then and there, I reached over and gently touched Nereus. He arose slowly, and when fully aroused and warmed up to his subject I thought I never heard such an exposition of the doctrines of Friends on the subject of war.

Later, the group visited Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. Davis received them courteously but remarked that he “regretted to learn” there was a group of people who were not willing to fight in defense of their country.

A statute was passed that exempted Quakers and members of other peace churches from military service upon either payment of money or rendering noncombatant services. A participant in the process said that

To Nereus Mendenhall’s argument, perhaps more than any other one thing, was due the passage of this law.

In later times, some Quakers refused to serve and refused to make payments or perform noncombatant services. Some of them were punished severely.

Mendenhall’s home, The Oaks, was located on what is now NC 68 between Greensboro and High Point in Guilford County. It is for sale by Preservation North Carolina and may be destroyed.

mendenhlll

Nereus Mendenhall

nereus_mendenhall_the_oaks-16

The Oaks

Midsize law firms showing vigor

A glass building in downtown Greensboro,North Carolina. Notice the reflection on the glass.

An outfit that calls itself “MidLaw” and extols the virtues of midsize law firms probably has an obligation to call attention to January 12’s Georgetown Law Thomson Reuters “2017 Report on the State of the Legal Market” wherein it is reported (pages 13 and 14) that

midsize firms saw a consistent upward trend in demand growth and fees worked, as well as an improvement in productivity from the beginning to the end of the [last 3 years]. … One possible interpretation of these results is that clients, while still directing some types of work to high-end, fairly specialized, premium firms (like the AmLaw 50) are increasingly willing to move substantially down market to smaller firms (midsize firms) in order to achieve significant price savings.

For purposes of discussion, MidLaw is going to be large-minded about these references to what is “high-end” and what is “down market.” We could have found more directionally accurate terms.

Much in the 18-page report confirms what you’ve heard here at MidLaw for years in multiple posts.